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broadway market pavement in Hackney
Photograph: Tania Volosianko /

London councils are widening pavements to make social distancing easier

Alexandra Sims

London may feel empty at the moment, but trying to keep two metres apart from people on our city’s narrow streets and pavements is proving tricky. To help people get their daily exercise and walk to the shops while still keeping their distance, councils in London are widening pavements and pedestrianising busy areas in the city.

Hackney Council have singled out seven sites across the area where people are having difficulty social distancing; most are outside busy supermarkets like the Sainsbury’s Local on Mare Street and the Tesco Express on East Road. Footpaths at all the sites will be widened with barriers, bollards and planters so people can walk and cycle more safely. Broadway Market will also be closed to through-traffic and parking will be restricted. 

Last week, Hammersmith & Fulham Council temporarily widened pavements in King Street and Uxbridge Road with barriers and weighted cones. Now there are fewer cars on the roads, the widening measures will take the streets down from two-lane to one-lane for vehicles.

It’s hoped the move will give Londoners more space to queue for shops safely and relieve pressure on parks and green spaces. It follows similar initiatives in Manchester, which became the first UK city to close one of its streets to cars, and in other parts of the world like Germany, where cities have created pop-up cycle lanes, and New Zealand, which has widened pavements and created temporary cycleways. It also echoes issues in New York, where it has been reported that many streets are simply too narrow for effective social distancing.  

Hackney’s Cllr Jon Burke, Cabinet Member for Energy, Waste, Transport and Public Realm, said: ‘By widening pavements at congested sites, we’re reallocating space to pedestrians to ensure that they can follow government public health guidance wherever possible. The coronavirus pandemic is also encouraging people to think differently about how much space is allocated to private cars.’

Read all the new rules on exercising and moving around in London

Or, go on a virtual walk: London’s first public art walk, The Line, goes online 

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